MacBook Air gets a refresh, but not the upgrade you probably wanted


(Photo courtesy of Apple)

Apple announced Tuesday that it has revamped its MacBook Air line. The firm said it had not only improved the performance on its lightest laptop but also cut the price of its cheapest model by $100.

The new MacBook Air models have been modified with a slightly faster 1.4 Ghz core i5 chip, an improvement over the 1.3 GHz processor chip of the previous model. Apple last updated its MacBook Air models in 2013, and the processor bump for these 2014 versions is the only significant hardware difference.

Under the new pricing scheme, the 11-inch MacBook Air sells for $899, and the 13-inch starts at $999. That adds a little more distance, financially and psychologically, between the Air line and the pricier MacBook Pro line. Analysts have questioned why Apple hasn't just merged the two product lines because they tend to appeal to roughly the same set of customers.

Although the $100 price cut hardly puts the Air into the "impulse buy" tier, it does make it more competitive with offerings in the broader market, including the "ultrabooks" of the past couple of years and the tablet models with keyboards or other accessories that are designed to be laptop replacements. In fact, this cut actually pushes the cheapest MacBook Air below the base price of the most expensive Microsoft Surface 2.

One thing Apple didn't announce for the new MacBook Air? A retina display, which has been on the wish list of many a prospective buyer since the company added the high-resolution screens to the  MacBook Pro line. As 9 to 5 Mac reported, rumor has it that a 12-inch MacBook Air with retina display will debut in the second or third quarter of the year -- so if you're on the fence about buying these latest models, you may want to wait.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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